Lost in the Movies: Twin Peaks: Demons

Twin Peaks: Demons

-Episode 13 of the series-
("Twin Peaks" reviews start here)

directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels

"He is Bob, eager for fun. He wears a smile, everybody run! Do you understand the parasite? It attaches itself to a life form and feeds. Bob requires a human host. He feeds on fear and the pleasures. They are his children. I am similar to Bob. We once were partners...Oh, but then I saw the face of God and was purified. Took off the arm but remained close to this vessel, inhabiting from time to time for one single purpose...To stop him! This is his true face but few can see it. The gifted...and the DAMNED!"

The air is charged in Twin Peaks, and you can sense a pent-up energy in everything onscreen, from the opening close-up of a luminous orchid to the closing words of a demonically-possessed one-armed man, reprinted above (their spine-tingling magnificence is greatly enhanced by the rising timbre of Al Strobel's illustrious baritone). You just know something's in the works - it's there in the way Donna and James rekindle their love as Maddy watches, saddened but dignified. Or the involuntary recoiling of Audrey Horne from her father's touch, now that she's back in the safety of the Great Northern with her guardian angel/special agent watching over her. Or in the chords of the "Twin Peaks" theme, rarely heard outside the opening credits, as Maddy tells James she enjoyed being seen as Laura, but now it's time for her to go home. Or even in the supposedly lighter moments, as Bobby and Shelly party with a comatose Leo (they seem more like the kids they really are than at any time since last season), or when the mysteriously waxen Japanese financier Tojamura encounters a drunken Pete and they're weirdly simpatico (even as Tojamura admonishes Pete, "I find adherence to fantasy troubling...and unreasonable."). It's in small gestures, as when Leland Palmer absentmindedly pulls tufts of white fur off the stuffed fox in Benjamin Horne's office, before depositing them in his shirt pocket. It's in David Lynch's cameo as FBI boss Gordon Cole, the weird black-and-white flowing river imagery that appears under the opening credit, and that sharp cut to the Great Northern, looking for all the world like an evil jack-o-lantern, windows lit up, cloaked in the evening mist and, as one-armed Mike has just told us, home to Bob in his present form.

This episode, the last before what will essentially prove to be the series' climax, is a veteran's affair. Lesli Linka Glatter, so far the only director (besides Lynch) to helm more than one "Twin Peaks," takes her third - and strongest - stab at the series. The teleplay is by two of the writers who best represent the dual spirits of the show - Harley Peyton in effort #5 (making him, like Glatter, "Twin Peaks"' most-designated hitter), and Robert Engels whose work I first noticed - and admired - several episodes ago, though in fact he'd also written one of the best episodes of the first season. This is his fourth appearance in the lineup. Based on their previous work, I'd surmise that it's Peyton penning the absurdist humor, as Engels etches true pathos into the story's teenage love and Laura mystique. Meanwhile, Glatter undergirds the proceedings with an ethereal, half-winking, half-serious approach which demonstrates a hard-won comprehension of what makes this world tick.

Peyton's specialty is Agent Rosenfield, he of the cheerful shoulder chip, and nowhere to be found this time. But in his place is a new FBI man, Gordon Cole, hard of hearing, prone to shout loudly and misunderstand comments directed his way (despite, or perhaps because of, a Depression-era hearing aid running from his ear), and played by David Lynch with oodles of presence. Watch Donna try not to laugh as Cole bursts into the police station and Sheriff Truman is forced to leave her, alone and exasperated, in an interrogation room. Agent Cooper once told Jacques Renault, "We're in sync now...can you feel it?" but perhaps he was thinking of his boss. For when Coop arrives in the station, neither he nor Cole has to look at one another - Coop stops in his tracks, snaps his fingers in Cole's direction, and Cole declares cheerfully, "Aaaagent Cooper!"

The episode is flamboyant, but not in the somewhat affected and superficial way of episode 11 - Glatter, whose first outing was not especially distinguished, has completely mastered the Peaksian vernacular and most scenes dance on that razor's edge between sly, edgy camp and spooky, eerie intensity. Certain familiar themes echo in the distance, hinting at crescendos to come. Peyton, who wrote the first episode in which Leland Palmer's song-and-dancing ways led to public embarrassment, refreshes that scenario - though by now Leland's too far gone to be embarrassed by his own behavior. And while he cheerfully croons "Getting to Know You" to a room full of Great Northern guests, his daughter's friends wind down their investigation of Laura's murder.

This episode picks up just where the previous one left off - and the difference is apparent right away. Whereas episode 12 seemed unconvincing in its attempt to scare us with Harold's antics, and hence the climax of the generally economical and straightforward episode read uncomfortably histrionic, episode 13 lets the scenario edge over into poignant camp, where it truly belongs. Harold, threatening Donna and Maddy with a gardening tool, is hysterical enough to be funny - and also slightly scary, and definitely sad. When James has rescued the damsels in distress and Harold is left alone in his tidy little prison, he nervously sprays his orchids before collapsing into drawn out cries of, "Nooooo! Nooooo!" This is exactly right - comical enough to seem self-aware, yet with a lilting sincerity that tells us it's not exactly kidding.

Outside, where Harold cannot go, there's a sense the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew adventures have gone as far as they can. Jacoby was hospitalized, James was framed for a coke deal, and now Donna could have been killed - is enough enough? Donna and James rekindle their love, and Maddy decides to go home. She tells James of her decision by a lake, in a scene saturated with a kitschy yet deeply-felt adolescent pathos. This has to be Engels at work; he seems to specialize in unveiling Laura's legacy, as it impacts her crowd - the high schoolers who are caught up in love and yearning and restlessness, who can sense the dark abyss that consumed Laura without ever quite falling in themselves. That lakeside encounter, bathed in bright light like the cover of a gauzy teen romance paperback, is a small gem. It's filled with corny paeans to love mouthed by the goofy but utterly guileless James. And Sheryl Lee deserves special credit for creating a Maddy entirely outside of her Laura: sweet, naive, eventually more knowing than she had been, but still far too good-hearted to be truly confused with her dynamic and tragic cousin.

As Maddy prepares to leave Twin Peaks, someone else arrives. In a manner of speaking. "Without chemicals, he points," the giant told Cooper, and the agent is intuitive enough to realize that the one-armed man, if denied his drugs, will somehow lead them to Bob. In what must surely be a violation of FBI ethics, Cooper, Cole, and Truman restrain mild-mannered shoe salesman Phillip Gerard as he gnashes his teeth and jerks around in spasms. Cole stands by, needle ready for emergency, but just as he's preparing to inject, the possibly schizophrenic Phillip slides out of his seizure with oily grace, straightens himself out, and immediately assumes a new air. His posture is elegant, his speech eloquent, and his eyes dance with a haughty superiority over his captors.

This is Mike.

In the middle of that monologue, Mike recites his infamous poem, first introduced in Cooper's dream alongside the dancing dwarf and the red room: "Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds: Fire...walk...with me..." It's an invitation, not just to the flames of temptation but to us in the audience, and one we'll take up soon...very soon.

WARNING - Comments section contains spoilers for episodes to come - do not read if you don't know what's around the bend.

Next: Twin Peaks: Lonely Souls (season 2, episode 7)
Previous: Twin Peaks: The Orchid's Curse (season 2, episode 5)

For more on Twin Peaks:
Jim Emerson
Keith Phipps, The A.V. Club

On this site:
That gum you like is going to come back in style...
Twin Peaks in context
Twin Peaks (the pilot)
Twin Peaks: Traces to Nowhere
Twin Peaks: Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer
Twin Peaks: Rest in Pain
Twin Peaks: The One-Armed Man
Twin Peaks: Cooper's Dreams
Twin Peaks: Realization Time
Twin Peaks: The Last Evening
Twin Peaks: May the Giant Be With You
Twin Peaks: Coma
Twin Peaks: The Man Behind Glass
Twin Peaks: Laura's Secret Diary
Twin Peaks: The Orchid's Curse
*Twin Peaks: Demons
Twin Peaks: Lonely Souls
Twin Peaks: Drive With a Dead Girl
Twin Peaks: Arbitrary Law
Twin Peaks: Beyond Life and Death

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (the movie)
Critical idiocy vis a vis Fire Walk With Me


Unknown said...

"Lesli Linka Glatter, the only director (besides Lynch) to helm more than one 'Twin Peaks'"

I believe Tim Hunter also did at least two (including the first hour of the great 2-hour finale).

And both Glatter and Hunter later worked on Madmen.

BTW: Robert C. Combow has a nice article on Lynch posted at today's House Next Door: http://www.thehousenextdooronline.com/2008/11/david-lynch-folds-space-because-he-is.html

Joel Bocko said...

You're right - I meant to say "till now" (it will be adjusted).

I loved Tim Hunter's first episode though I see that he also directed the "capturing-the-killer" episode which I wasn't so fond of the first time around.

I will definitely check out the House article.

Joel Bocko said...

By the way, thanks for point that out - I used to follow the House Next Door pretty closely but it's one of those blogs that updates too quickly for me to keep up with - a curse disguised as a blessing - so I gave up altogether, unfortunately.

Tony Dayoub said...

A great episode in the sense that it really sustains the impending sense of resolution for a ful 45 minutes.

Also, a lot of near imperceptible work is done here to distract you from figuring out Maddie is the next victim. I only realized it in hindsight. Some of the credit goes to Sheryl Lee who made Maddie more than just the convntional lookalike cousin of soap opera tradition.

Joel Bocko said...

That's an interesting point, Tony. Unfortunately I found this out ahead of time because when looking for a You Tube clip of Bob crawling over the couch, I accidentally discovered one called "Bob kills Maddie." Luckily it did not reveal who Bob was, but still, that kind of spoiled the nasty surprise. What did you feel they did to conceal this? Seeing this episode knowing what was going to happen, obviously I read her impending departure as a hint she was going to be killed.

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